Lesson 3 – The Conversion of Paul

Lesson 3 – The Conversion of Paul2016-11-27T17:37:03+00:00

Sabbath, October 20, 2007

 

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blas­phemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:12, 13, NKJV

Objectives
• To try to fathom the love and power of God in changing the enemy into a faithful servant
• To see how God works to bring our misguided zeal into harmony with His good purpose
• To learn that opposers of the truth of Christ cannot stop the progress God’s work of God but will themselves suffer
• To learn about the high calling of the church in the salvation of lost mankind and about God’s estimation of the church

Misapplied human zeal

1. In persecuting the church, did Saul know that he was working against the cause of God?
1 Timothy 1:12, 13 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Acts 26:9-11 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

“Saul had taken a prominent part in the trial and conviction of Stephen, and the striking evidences of God’s presence with the martyr had led Saul to doubt the righteousness of the cause he had espoused against the followers of Jesus. His mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and judgment he had full confidence. The arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right.

“Not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion. But in the end his education and prejudices, his respect for his former teachers, and his pride of popularity braced him to rebel against the voice of conscience and the grace of God. And having fully decided that the priests and scribes were right, Saul became very bitter in his opposition to the doctrines taught by the disciples of Jesus.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 112, 113.

2. In correcting Saul’s mistaken zeal, how did the Lord in His wisdom and power interrupt his plans?
Acts 26:12-14 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Acts 9:1-3 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.

“Paul honestly thought that he was persecuting a weak, ignorant, fa­natical sect. He did not realize that he himself was the one deluded and deceived, and following ignorantly under the banner of the prince of darkness.

“The mind that resists the truth will see everything in a perverted light. It will be fastened in the sure toils of the enemy, and view things in the light of the enemy.

“Saul of Tarsus was an example of this. He had no moral right to be an unbeliever. But he had chosen to accept the opinions of men rather than the counsel of God. He had the prophecies pointing to the Messiah, but the sayings of the rabbis, the words of men, were preferred. In his own wis­dom, Saul knew not God nor Jesus Christ, whom He had sent. Afterward in repeating his experience, he declared that he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Saul was honest in his unbelief. His was no pretension, and Jesus arrested him in his career and showed him on whose side he was working. The persecutor accepted the words of Christ, and was converted from infidelity to faith in Christ.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1057.

From persecutor to disciple

3. Describe how Paul met Jesus and received the call to discipleship while on special assignment to persecute His disciples in Damascus.
Acts 26:15-18 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Acts 9:4-6 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

“‘While the light continued to shine round about them, Saul heard a ‘voice speaking … in the Hebrew tongue’ (Acts 26:14), ‘saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’

“Filled with fear, and almost blinded by the intensity of the light, the companions of Saul heard a voice, but saw no man. But Saul understood the words that were spoken, and to him was clearly revealed the One who spoke–even the Son of God. In the glorious Being who stood before him he saw the Crucified One. Upon the soul of the stricken Jew the image of the Saviour’s countenance was imprinted forever. The words spoken struck home to his heart with appalling force. Into the darkened chambers of his mind there poured a flood of light, revealing the ignorance and error of his former life and his present need of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 114, 115.

4. How were Paul’s spiritual eyes opened, and what was his response? Whom does everyone serve who works against the church of God and persecutes His people?
1 Timothy 1:13-16 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
1 Corinthians 15:8, 9 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Revelation 12:13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

“Saul now saw that in persecuting the followers of Jesus he had in reality been doing the work of Satan. He saw that his convictions of right and of his own duty had based been largely on his implicit confidence in the priests and rulers. He had believed them when they told him that the story of the resurrection was an artful fabrication of the disciples. Now that Jesus Himself stood revealed, Saul was convinced of the truthfulness of the claims made by the disciples.
“In that hour of heavenly illumination Saul’s mind acted with remarkable rapidity. The prophetic records of Holy Writ were opened to his understanding. He saw that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, had been foretold by the prophets and proved Him to be the promised Messiah.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 116.

Blind so he might see

5. What was the effect of the glorious light that shone upon Paul and his companions? According to divine wisdom, why was he stricken with blindness for three days?
Acts 9:8, 9 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

“What a humiliation it was to Paul to know that all the time he was using his powers against the truth, thinking he was doing God’s service, he was persecuting Christ. When the Saviour revealed Himself to Paul in the bright beams of His glory, he was filled with abhorrence for his work and for himself. The power of Christ’s glory might have destroyed him, but Paul was a prisoner of hope. He was made physically blind by the glory of the presence of Him whom he had blasphemed, but it was that he might have spiritual sight, that he might be awakened from the lethargy that had stupefied and deadened his perceptions…. In the days and nights of his blindness he had time for reflection, and he cast himself all helpless and hopeless upon Christ, the only one who could pardon him and clothe him with righteousness.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1058.

6. In his desperate condition, to whom was he directed for help? What was the role of the church in Paul’s conversion?
Acts 9:10-12
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

“The Redeemer of the world does not sanction experience and exercise in religious matters independent of His organized and acknowledged church. Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His recognized followers on earth. But in the history of the conversion of Saul, important principles are given us, which we should ever bear in mind. He was brought directly into the presence of Christ. He was one whom Christ intended for a most important work, one who was to be ‘a chosen vessel’ unto Him; yet He did not personally impart to him the lessons of truth. He arrested his course and convicted him; but when asked by him, ‘What wilt Thou have me to do?’ The Saviour placed him in connection with His church, and let them direct him what to do.

“Saul was a learned teacher in Israel; but, while in the midst of his blind error and prejudice, Christ reveals Himself to him, and then places him in communication with His church, which is the light of the world.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, pp. 31, 32.

7. As Ananias laid hands upon Saul, with what loving words did he address him?
Acts 9:17, 18 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

“In this case Ananias represents Christ, and also represents Christ’s ministers upon earth, who are appointed to act in His stead. In Christ’s stead, Ananias touches the eyes of Saul that they may receive sight. In Christ’s stead, he places his hands upon him, and, praying in Christ’s name, Saul receives the Holy Ghost. All is done in the name and by the authority of Christ; but the church is the channel of communication.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 32.

8. At this point, what counsel did Paul come to realize to be the truth?
Acts 5:38, 39 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

“The realization that Jesus is the Christ marks the point of Saul’s conversion, and the end of his persecution rage. He is made to see what his master, Gamaliel, had before suggested (ch. 5:39), that to persecute Jesus was to fight against God.” –S.D.A. Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 229.

9. What scar was Paul to bear as a constant reminder of his encounter with Jesus?
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Acts 9:8, 9 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

“Paul had a bodily affliction; his eyesight was bad. He thought that by earnest prayer the difficulty might be removed. But the Lord had His purpose, and He said to Paul, Speak to Me no more of this matter. My grace is sufficient. It will enable you to bear the infirmity….

“He

[Paul] was ever to carry about with him in the body the marks of Christ’s glory, in his eyes, which had been blinded by the heavenly light.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp.1107, 1059.

For further meditation and study

• As was the experience of Paul, we also encounter some bitter experiences in life which are intended by Heaven to correct our wrong motives and actions cherished by us in our blindness. Please read Revelation 3:14-19. How do we react in such situations?
• Paul felt deeply sorry to learn that by persecuting the disciples of Jesus and the truth, he was committing a great offense against God. Have we grasped that any spirit of persecution we manifest toward our fellowmen means we are actually working for Satan? Read Matthew 24:45-51; 25:41-45.
• Paul was directed by Jesus to His servants for help and instruction. Do we have the same esteem for the servants of God as He does?

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